Zion Williamson says he’s taking a ‘back seat’ with Pelicans, ‘trying my best to buy into the moment’

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It's early November, and problems are emerging for Zion Williamson and the Pelicans.

It’s early November, and problems are emerging for Zion Williamson and the Pelicans. (USA TODAY USPW/reuters)

All is not well with the New Orleans Pelicans.

The team is in the midst of a five-game losing streak, and Zion Williamson is feeling less than happy with his role.

The Pelicans lost 136-124 to the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday. After the game, Williamson was asked about adjusting to a new offense installed this season under head coach Willie Green and first-year assistant James Borrego. He replied that he is “trying my best” to buy into the new system.

“Last year, we had a team meeting,” Williamson said. “We brought up some things that I can do better, especially with buying into the program. Right now, it’s difficult. I’m taking a bit of a back seat right now . I trust the process. I’m trying my best to buy in now.”

It is not clear which part of the program Williamson is trying to buy his best. But he doesn’t seem to be happy with his role.

According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the new offense will preach ball movement and speed with a greater emphasis on 3-point shooting. Through nine games, it still does not pay dividends. The Pelicans are 28th in the league with a 107.7 offensive rating, a measure of points scored per 100 possessions.

With Williamson and Ingram on the floor at the same time, they are even worse. According to the Times-Picayune, the Pelicans have posted a 103.2 offensive rating in the 147 minutes the two have been on the floor. That’s lower than the Portland Trail Blazers, who are last in the league with an offensive rating of 105.2.

The Pelicans are playing with the 10th fastest pace in the league, but so far they are not producing results on the scoreboard. They also fail to find success from deep. They rank 21st in the league with 11.4 3-pointers made per game and 22nd with a 34.8% success rate.

It’s far too early to make big assessments of a new offense, especially since starting guard CJ McCollum has missed the last four games of a five-game losing streak with a collapsed lung. But the frustration in New Orleans is palpable. It’s troubling that it comes from a star in Williamson who has a career to a rocky, injury-riddled star.

Williamson’s numbers are suffering through the eight games he has played. It is not used.

Williamson’s 21.6 points per game is down from his career average of 25.5. His 16.8 field goal attempts per game and 30.5% usage rate are in line with his career numbers. But his field goal percentage of 51.5% is well below his career mark of 59.9%.

In addition to learning a new offense, he’s still learning to share the ball with another leading ball scorer in Ingram (30.4% usage rate). Due to injuries to both players, they only played 93 games together in their first four seasons together in New Orleans.

Both factors can go a long way in explaining the struggles of Williamson and the Pelicans. But Williamson seems to be losing patience in early November. With losses mounting, the pressure is on both the Pelicans and Williamson to find a solution.

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